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Some Controversial Issues In Criminal Justice

Compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful

Some Controversial Issues In Criminal Justice

Criminal Justice controversies often make the headlines. These criminal justice issues create controversy because solving them isn’t always a clear-cut case. They’re never simple, hence why they’re controversies. We examine the top criminal controversies in the US criminal justice system that we face today. 

Police Body Cameras

The public’s increased attention to the alleged misconduct of police has encouraged a strong push toward police officers wearing body cameras as part of their standard gear. The primary intent behind this is to stimulate greater transparency and accountability regarding the actions of the police. 

Recorded evidence is beneficial as it could either exonerate or help prosecute the officer or suspect involved. Americans have given 90% support for this to become the norm. The Department of Justice announced that body cameras on police officers would be required to record events under specific conditions. 

However, some jurisdictions require police officers to have their body cameras recording during their entire shift. This has raised some privacy issues since police officers may have to take private calls or use the restroom while on duty.

The Legalization of Marijuana

Twenty-one US states have legalized marijuana for people to use recreationally. Law enforcement has seen an increase in robberies of marijuana dispensaries and crime in neighborhoods. 

Additionally, it’s pretty tricky for law enforcement to determine whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana during a traffic stop. Breathalyzers are not designed to pick up cannabis intoxication. Currently, there’s no device that can determine it.

Disparities in Sentencing

A federal government report shows that black men, on average, still receive longer sentences than white men. On average, it’s 19.1% longer than white men that committed similar crimes. Additionally, the report also indicates that women of all races received shorter sentences than white men. For more information, you can visit The Sentencing Project, which is actively working on ending these imbalances.

Human Trafficking

Human trafficking is on the increase worldwide despite all efforts to combat it. The United States is ranked as a country that has some of the worst human trafficking statistics, with more than 199,000 cases reported annually. California is ranked as the worst state, with 1,300 reported cases. 

There are five types of human trafficking in the United States:

  • Forced labor (modern-day slavery).
  • Forced criminal activity.
  • Sexual exploitation.
  • Removal of organs.
  • People smuggling.

While all 50 states have laws against human trafficking, the focus has moved towards helping survivors. However, it still has many challenges since people consider victims criminals. Social services continue to fail victims by not recognizing them. 

There’s also a lack of the appropriate data on the sex trafficking of children in the US, which makes combatting offenders or helping victims very challenging. It is unfortunate that offenders always appear a step ahead of the law. 

Additionally, the public may be supporting a human trafficking ring unwittingly through companies or people that seem to be operating legitimately. An example of this is the case concerning Jeffry Epstein, the very successful financier who was considered among friends and business colleagues as a ‘Terrific Guy’ where many celebrities, including Prince Albert of the royal family, were named to be involved.

DNA and Genealogy

In 2018, DNA found at a crime scene was uploaded to GEDmatch (a genealogy website) by the police. Police found a distant relative’s DNA matching the data, eventually leading to the arrest of the Golden State Killer. AKA Joseph James DeAngelo, he went on a killing, kidnapping, robbery, and killing spree between 1974 to 1986. He received 11 life sentences plus an additional eight years. 

The advancement in DNA science has enabled us to find definitive evidence in the investigations of all crimes. However, police getting access to the data on genealogy websites is controversial. It’s argued that using this data violates citizens’ Fourth Amendment rights, clearly prohibiting seizure and search activities. Genealogy websites and services are used for personal reasons, such as people wanting to search for their family history.

Mental Illness and Crime

As research continues, it has become more apparent that there’s a strong correlation between mental illness and crime. People with mental illness are more likely to commit a crime. More than 70% of criminals held in prisons across the US today suffer from some form of addiction, mental illness, and anti-social behavioral issues.

The American Rescue Plan aims to address America’s mental health crisis and substance abuse issues. Throwing money at these issues won’t solve them. We’ll need to overhaul the entire criminal justice system, which can’t be done overnight. Everyone, including the courts, law enforcement, policymakers, and mental health care providers, must work together to address it.

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